The Billings Outpost

Teacher of Year named; Billings teacher is finalist

“I don’t even know how to feel, I’m so excited,” said Deer Lodge science teacher Jessica Anderson when she learned she had been chosen as the 2016 Montana Teacher of the Year.

Anderson got the news from 2015 Montana Teacher of the Year Craig Beals, who called her on behalf of the Teacher of the Year selection committee. “She’s so deserving, so great,” Beals said about Anderson. “She’s got energy like I’ve never seen. All of this year’s finalists are amazing.”

Each year, the Montana Teacher of the Year program recognizes a teacher who exemplifies the best in the teaching profession. It is the highest honor a Montana teacher can receive. The program is sponsored and administered by the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation, based in Helena.

Teachers nominated to be Montana Teacher of the Year go through an exhaustive application process. Three finalists are chosen for interviews. This year’s selection committee included representatives from the Office of Public Instruction, School Administrators of Montana, four educators, a parent, and a high school student.

This year’s other two finalists are Shelly Stanton, technology integration and business teacher in the Billings schools, and Derek Strahn, social studies teacher at Bozeman High School.

As the 2016 Montana Teacher of the Year, Anderson will serve as an ambassador for public education, represent Montana in the National Teacher of the Year program, and attend several national events along with the other state teachers of the year.

Anderson teaches earth science, chemistry, and physics at Powell County High School in Deer Lodge. She also teaches oceanography online through the Montana Digital Academy.

Anderson says it was her grandmother who inspired her to become a teacher. Her grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse on the North Dakota plains. At first glance, their teaching careers appear to have little in common. Her grandmother not only taught kids in multiple grades, “she cleaned the school, tended to the wood stove, and washed down the outhouse,” Anderson says. “She took on these responsibilities without any formal training, just a passion for students and their learning.”

Anderson, on the other hand, teaches in a high-tech world and harnesses digital tools to personalize learning for her students. She has multiple degrees, including postgraduate studies in science, a master’s in science education, and a bachelor’s in elementary education.

Today, Anderson uses a teaching technique she calls “blended learning” – using technology in innovative ways that allow students to “choose their own path, their own pace, sometimes even their own location. No matter how learners do it, the goal is to demonstrate mastery of content that is meaningful to them.”

In studying plate tectonics, for example, one student chose to create a picture collage of plate movement, while another made a video explaining plate tectonics and posted it to YouTube.

Anderson also uses elements of computer games in her teaching, adding them into traditional learning situations and “making it into a game.” Students get to earn “experience points” and move to different “levels.” “They love it,” she says.

These tools allow Anderson to “engage with every student every day, continually questioning their thinking and helping them self-manage their learning,” she says.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 20:30

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City has long hockey history

By BILL CALLAHAN - The Billings Outpost

It will be cold before you know it. Cold weather means hockey. In Billings, Hockey means the Billings Bulls. The Bulls are getting set to begin their 23rd season of hockey.

Billings has a long history of junior and minor pro hockey experience. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Billings’ hockey began with the Blazers. The Blazers operated for two seasons, 1974-75 and 1975-76. They played in the Southwest Hockey League.

The problem with this league was travel. The league had a team in Butte for the first season as well as a team in North Dakota, but the majority of travel was to New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. The league folded toward the end of the ’75-’76 season.

Billings took a year off from hockey but came back strong in 1977 with the Billings Bighorns. The Bighorns operated at the very top level of junior hockey. The Western Hockey League is and was a Canadian-based operation.

The Bighorns were successful. A number of players went on the play in the National Hockey League, including Gord Kluzak, Murray Brumwell, Andy Moog and Don Nachbauer.

The Bighorns left town at the end of the 1981-82 season. They went back to Canada and played in Naniamo, B.C.

Hockey took a year off and then the Montana Magic arrived. They played in the Central Hockey League. This was AA pro hockey. The team did not click with Billings fans and left at the end of the 1983-84 season.

There was one more season of pro hockey for the Magic City. In 1985-86 the Billings Marlboros played a short season in the Centennial Hockey League before they folded.

It would be another four years before Billings found a team on the junior level. The 1993-94 season brought the Billings Bulls to town. This weekend the Bulls will begin their 23rd season. During their 22 years the Bulls have played in different leagues:

• American Frontier

• America West

• North American.

• Norpac.

• NA3

The Bulls regular season gets under way on Friday, Sept. 25, at Centennial Arena on Bench Boulevard. I look forward to seeing you around the rink.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 20:25

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High school realignments show changing state

By T.J. GILLES - For The Outpost

High-school football season, like smoke from a not-so-distant wildfire, once again has descended upon Montana.

Observing the realignments and reclassifications of Montana High School Association members provides a learning moment for students of the sociology, economics and history of the ever-changing state.

Perhaps the most notable changes this year are the demotions of Anaconda and Plentywood. Anaconda, formerly in with the biggest schools in Class AA and most recently in Class A, was moved down to B. The Copperheads still get to field 11-man teams, but not so Plentywood, which went from B down to Class C, where they will play eight men at a time.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. About 120 years ago, Anaconda was in the running to be capital of the then-newest state when Copper King Marcus Daly attempted to bribe the Legislature. He got caught and Helena remained the seat of state government.

The world’s tallest all-masonry smokestack remains dormant, smokeless and silent, overseeing the former Superfund slag heaps of smelter offal, which now is a sculpted Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, Old Works.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 September 2015 19:34

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Labor Day tennis results

Here are results from Billings Tennis Association’s Labor Day Tennis Tournament:

 10 and Under:  Winners: Tayshawn Williams, Joseph Poling, Keisha Williams, Kyle Poling

Boys 12’s Singles: 1st Place Joseph Driscoll With a record of 3-0

Boys 14’s Singles: Marko Foster defeated Evan Kidd 6-3,6-2

Boys 16’s Singles: 1st Place Jayden Ostler with a record of 3-0

Boys 18’s Singles  Marcos Zelver Defeated Fergus Pollard 6-0,7-5

Boys 18’s Doubles: Andrew Driscoll and Skeff Thomas with a record of 2-0

Girls 12’s Singles:  1st Place Hazel Demaray with a record of 3-0

Girls 16’s Singles: 1st Place Annie Woods with a record of 3-0

Girls 18’s Doubles: 1st Place Virginia Lynne Montague and Annie Woods with a record of 3-0

Men’s Open Doubles: Santiago De La Rosa and Austin Kicshe defeated Brett Becker and Jay Montague 6-3,6-3

Woman’s Open Doubles: Amber Sparks and Julia Fenn defeated Becky King and Mary Ritchie 6-1,6-0

Mixed Open Doubles: Sean Harris and Julia Fenn Defeated Brett Becker and Sherrie Fuller-Benge 6-2,6-2

Men’s 4.0 Doubles: 1st Place Salvador Osorio and Scott Hanson with record of 3-0

Woman’s 4.0 Doubles: 1st place Gail Nutting and Carol Van Tuinen with record of 3-0

Woman’s 3.5 Doubles: 1st Place Katy Williams and Colleen Miller with record of 2-0

Woman’s 3.0 Doubles: Kathy King and Linda Birkett def Lisa Ullman and Mary Dvarishkis 4-6,6-1, 1-0

Mixed 8.0 Doubles: 1st Place Paige Darden and Salvador Osorio with a record of 3-0

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 September 2015 19:33

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4th graders get park passes

WASHINGTON – As part of President Obama’s commitment to protect our nation’s outdoor spaces and ensure that every American has the opportunity to visit and enjoy them, the Obama Administration has launched the new Every Kid in a Park program. 

Fourth graders nationwide can now visit the new Every Kid in a Park website to obtain a pass that provides free access to students and their families to all federally managed lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries. The pass is valid for the 2015-2016 school year and grants free entry for fourth graders and three accompanying adults (or an entire car for drive-in parks) at more than 2,000 federally-managed sites.

Leading up to the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016, President Obama announced the Every Kid in a Park initiative as a call to action to get all children to experience America’s outdoors. Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, youth spend more hours than ever in front of screens instead of outside.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 23:38

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When it comes to attendance, 95 percent is no A

Office of Public Instruction

Students who miss just 18 days of school in a year are more likely to fall behind, struggle with grades and even drop out.

That’s why Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau is asking Montana students to start the school year strong by committing to attend class each day.

“The simple act of showing up gives students a better chance at succeeding,” Superintendent Juneau said. “A student who goes to school each day is more likely to do better in reading and math. That student is more likely to graduate from high school, and is more likely to have a successful career.”

September is Attendance Awareness month, an annual event developed by Attendance Works that aims to promote the importance of advancing student success by reducing chronic absenteeism, United Way, America’s Promise Alliance and others.

Attendance Works research shows that students who miss 10 percent of the school year, that’s just 18 days, are considered chronically absent and have a higher chance of falling behind. When a school’s average daily attendance rate falls below 95 percent, research has found that chronic absenteeism is likely a growing concern for a significant share of its students.

In 2014, the average daily attendance for all Montana schools was 93.6 percent.

“Attendance, achievement and graduation are all connected,” Juneau said. “This year, I encourage Montana students to continue raising the bar and to show up each day engaged and ready to learn.”

Attendance Awareness month officially began Sept. 1. Schools across the state will be participating in Attendance Awareness month events, including in Great Falls, Billings, Lockwood, Willow Creek and Wolf Point.

Quick Facts:

• Average daily attendance is highest in elementary school and begins to decline by seventh grade.

• Montana’s average daily attendance in 2014 was lowest in 12th grade, highest in fourth.

• A school with average daily attendance below 93 percent could mean a large share of students are chronically absent.

• Low-income students are four times more likely to be chronically absent than their high-income peers.

• By sixth grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 September 2015 22:48

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Smoke endangers sports

With the fall outdoor sports season getting into full swing, RiverStone Health officials note the importance of air quality.

“Air quality in Yellowstone County has ranged from unhealthy for sensitive groups to very unhealthy over the past two weeks,” said John Felton, Yellowstone County health officer.

“Because air quality can change rapidly depending on wind speed and direction, organizers involved with outdoor sporting events should pay close attention to changing conditions to make decisions about holding events.”

Felton added, “To minimize adverse health effects from the smoke, those responsible for the health and safety of athletes should consider rescheduling sporting events as conditions dictate.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 September 2015 22:47

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Renovated rec center inviting to students

MSU Billings News Services

Where worn out carpet once lay, student athletes and those wanting to stay or get into shape now find plush flooring and a vista of new equipment in the Montana State University Billings rec center gym.

The renovations, 15 years in the making, mean there are now about 600 square feet of new space in the work out room and some 20 new stations.

In between free-weight reps, radiology major Kyla Chamberlain said the remodel and additions to the student facility were a marked improvement.

“Before, it was clustered and hard to work out,” Chamberlain said. “There wasn’t a lot of room. Now, it’s nice.”

She said before the remodel some of the workout equipment looked “sketchy” and she hesitated to use it.

“The equipment is now new and it looks safe,” Chamberlain said. “There are a lot more to choose from, too. It’s important to work out for mental and physical fitness so I think it’ll be a lot easier with the improvements they’ve made down here.”

Chamberlain’s friend and workout buddy, Netasha Lovato, 20, agreed. As an outdoor enthusiast from Colorado, staying in peak physical condition is extremely important for the sophomore. After injuring her knee as a high school student, Lovato is keen on making sure it doesn’t happen again and she hits the gym regularly.

Lovato says the upgrades are day and night compared to last year.

“Before, this gym said, ‘small college gym,” Lovato said. “But, Billings has a lot more going on and now this gym is keeping up. This gym will help encourage students to attend. The renovations are a big improvement.”

So far, Lovato is really impressed with the new assisted pull up and squat machines.

She and Chamberlain are in the gym almost daily, when they aren’t enjoying Billings’ other outdoor activities.

“For students whose lifestyle is in being outdoors or sports the gym is an important part to that,” Lovato said. “Now, we don’t mind being in here all the time.”

Recreational Director Aaron Murrish said the gym is now about 3,200 square-feet with the new space and it boasts several new mirrors, increased air flow and several new machines.

Many of the elliptical trainers, as well as weight machines, have been replaced, as have free-weight pieces on the floor.

“We’re excited to have these improvements completed for the upcoming semester. These improvements will be enjoyed for years to come,” Murrish said. As the cost is included in tuition and fees, MSU Billings students can utilize the gym free of charge.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 08:24

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Home schoolers must register

Parents, guardians or caregivers planning to home school their children for the 2015-2016 school year are required by law (MCA 20-5-109) to register their children with the County Superintendent of Schools.

Notification must be in written form and submitted to the County Superintendent of Schools, P.O. Box 35022, Billings, MT 59107.

If you have any questions, contact Sherry Long, Yellowstone County superintendent of schools at the above address or call (406) 256-6933.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 08:23

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YMCA honors volunteers

Since 2011, the Billings YMCA has recognized volunteers who have made a significant contribution of time and talent for the greater good of the community. On Aug. 12, Founder’s Day Awards were presented to Stella Fong and Jeff Hansen.

Stella Fong is a professional writer, food and wine educator, and community volunteer. Her first loves include the Montana State University Billings Wine and Food Festival, St. Vincent Foundation, the Magic City Trail Trek and the Billings Y.

She was also a seminal force in raising the $5 million to build the new Billings Public Library and serves as the board chairman.

Ms. Fong has served as a Y board member since 2011 and is actively involved with the Development, Governance, and Property committees. She received the 2015 YMCA Founder’s Day Award.

Mr. Hansen graduated from the YMCA LIVESTRONG for cancer survivors in December 2013. Since then, he has not only been an advocate for his own health, taking as many classes as his body would allow and eventually losing close to 100 pounds, he has become an health advocate for all Y members.

Since Mr. Hansen began volunteering in 2014, he has given 30-40 hours a week as a YMCA volunteer in every department of the Y from ChildWatch and Youth Sport to Fitness and Facilities. He received the 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 08:23

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